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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. with all three presidential debates behind us, the next two weeks will be a sprint to the finish line in what is virtually a dead heat. election night could be a long night with a couple of key swing states out west possibly holding the key to the race. tonight, we will look at the impact of the west with adam nagourney, l.a. bureau chief for the new york times. his thoughts on a controversial anti-union proposition in california and we would discuss the passing of a liberal lion over the weekend, george mcgovern. a conversation with adam nagourney of the new york times coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only
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halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: adam nagourney is the l.a. bureau chief for the new york times following years as the paper's chief national political correspondent. good to have you back on this program. we finally arrive at a day i thought would never come. the debates are finally over.
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it just two weeks from election day. it has been a perennial campaign. let me start with a question that has been on my mind a lot. what do you make of the perennial, never-ending campaign? if you like mitt romney and lose four years ago, the campaign never stops. even if you are obama and u.n. four years ago, the campaign never stops. america seems to be less about governing and more about campaigning. everything you do is about the campaign. does that make sense? >> i agree with you. the problem has to do with government. there is very little time to get things done. as soon as these guys are in washington, they are already thinking about the next campaign. the first 100 days -- and now, sometimes, it is the first 50 days before things began to
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change. no matter how the race turns out in two weeks, you will see people, certainly republicans if the president gets elected, heading to iowa before the end of the year. no joke. the question is when we begin to cover it. usually, out of respect, we try to wait. i would bet by one year from now, you will see lots of stories in iowa and new hampshire. tavis: that scares me. >> they have to get fund- raisers, nail down supporters, and the earlier it begins, the more pressure there is on people to do it. if romney loses, you will see a wide open appeal in both sides. tavis: since you went there, i will go there and right back. how long does hillary have to decide whether or not she is going to go in? >> i think she probably has two
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years. that is a long time. i do agree with you that if she decides to run, she will be a huge front runner. normally, i would not say that this far out, but she has so much appeal and there is a feeling that, if she wants it, it is her turn. more than that, there is a lot of support for her. people think she has done a great job as secretary of state. my sense is that the democratic party doing back-to-back history, that is very powerful. i covered her senate campaign in new york and her presidential campaign in 2008. if you ask me one year ago, i would say, she is 69 and wants to move on. my bet is that she would be tempted to run this time. i think she will run. tavis: bill wants her to run.
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for what it's worth, president clinton wants her to run. that is into the future. let me come back to the present. the debates are now over. how important do you think foreign policy will be in the last two weeks? clearly, the issue with iran over the last few days is front and center and other issues of national importance. for the typical american voter, how much do you think foreign policy is going to matter over the next two weeks? >> i do not think foreign policy is that big an issue. this time, there is so much concern about the economy, unemployment. this is not, generally speaking, a big deal. the terrorist attack changes things. you will see the libya thing as romney tries to make it an
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issue. it does not necessarily approve to romney. president obama has gone a long way in establishing his foreign policy credentials. i think it is harder. hypothetically, if there were a terrorist attack, the convention is among journalists is that it helps the challenger. i do not think that is the case at all. i think it makes people want to go with the safe -- tavis: most times, when people are at war, they want to stick with the incumbent. they do not want to be changing horses in midstream. >> the election is about the economy. do people want to trust romney? are they willing to give another four years to barack obama? if i had been romney or the people around him, i would have never wanted foreign policy to be the last debate. i wanted -- i would have wanted it to be something else.
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tavis: if they did not think that prior to the last debate tonight, -- let me rephrase that. if they did not think that the few -- a couple of months ago, they'd certainly thought it the last couple of months, when every time he talks about foreign policy, he puts his foot in his mouth. whether he is seen as being too political about the libya attack, or in the previous debate, he thought he gave the president a stiff uppercut and he was wrong. i think you are right. if they knew then what they know now, they might not have wanted the last debate to be about foreign policy, but i digress. let's move forward and consider what happened -- what happens. the polls have them in a dead heat. what happens if, on election night, there is a tie in the electoral college. it is possible.
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what is even more likely is that one wins the electoral college and one wins the popular vote. what is going to happen? >> the electoral votes dies. if it becomes a tie, i believe it goes to the house of representatives. romney would be president. obviously, it would not be a great thing for the country if you had to split between the general election and the electoral college. it happened before, but it could definitely happen. you could have a lot of really close states. i think it is very possible. tavis: covering this every day, why do you think this race is so close? you keep be -- we keep being told that the contrast could not be more stark between the two. why is the race is tight? >> this is an extremely
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polarized country. a whole group of people very far to the right and a whole group of people are democratic. i think you will have a race split by a couple of points. people are really angry. the tea party on the right and the people on the left have made this a very angry, intense election. we have been having a very divided elections for the past two or three cycles. i do not see that changing any time soon. the country is becoming more polarized. tavis: if president obama were to win in the tightest of tight races, what does that mean for his governance in the second term? >> i think it will make it harder for him to get stuff done. if he wins by a lot, he would probably have more clout with congress. i am assuming they continue to control the house. i am not sure about the senate,
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but the house, yes. this might be pie in the sky stuff, but after the fighting, that the republicans and democrats will come together. we have a fiscal cliff and are facing major issues. they came close to an agreement last time. maybe they will just do it. on both sides, they have trouble. on the republican side, they have to deal with tea party people who are not giving them much at all and obama has the same problem on the left. tavis: if romney were to win in a very tight election, the argument that he and paul ryan have been making is that they have a better chance of getting a budget passed. they have a better chance to make sure that sequestration becomes a word that we forget ever hearing in the first place because they can work better with congress. do you buy that argument? >> i do not see the grounds for
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it. there is hardly the up -- there is always the argument that people say, i can do this and this. i am not saying that romney cannot, but let's assume that the democrats control the senate or they lose the senate and the republicans have both. why would the democrats act any differently than republicans? if democrats have as much resistance to the kind of cuts that romney and ryan are talking about, why would democrats be any more flexible than republicans were? you can argue that democrats tend to -- tavis: cave. they cave a lot easier. >> i was thinking roll over. i am wondering if the democrats would not do the same things to the republicans. do not forget, mitch mcconnell in washington two years ago with the congressional correspondent at the time and he said, they
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made a decision early on that they were not going to give the president anything, any legislative victory at all. the argument he made to republicans was, we cannot give him a vote. if you give him a victory, you lead to reelection. he talked about it openly. obviously, if the president loses, democrats in the senate will be remembering that. that is my guest. it will be more difficult for romney. the one thing he will have for the first 100 days, he will have the momentum, the honeymoon and all of that. i think that will be a short- lived honeymoon. tavis: let me ask you a question i seem to be talked it -- talking about with guests every night, whether or not the president, does he become more
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progressive, does he try to touch issues that he did not touch in the first term? everybody is hoping and believing that he is going to go left when he gets elected. among the black community, even people who care about progressive causes. do you believe something will come out in the second term? >> for example, immigration. he did some stuff during the first four years. not a lot. what are you thinking that you would like him to do? tavis: the question is whether he will change on immigration reform. if he does not, the hispanics will go nuts. if he does not fix immigration reform, if he does not get more aggressive on the jobs front, african-americans at the top of the unemployment list, they will start to get more vocal about
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jobs. i could do this all night. >> i do not want to sound remotely defensive. presumably, he would have liked to have more stimulus money. it would have led to have -- to us having significantly lower unemployment. there was only some much he could get out of congress. that is the reality. i think this is a good argument -- latino voters could provide the margin of victory for him. he will be under a lot of pressure. he will try to get something through on immigration. republicans have changed on immigration since 2004. when george w. bush was president, he realized the power of latino voters. he was pushing the idea of a
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more permissive immigration policy. the party swung to the right. look at what happened with john mccain. that is not a tenable position long term. in the state where we are right now, across the west, where latinos are becoming more and more decisive, i do not think you can have a policy that is overly-harsh to a latino voters or immigrants. it is a slow move. you watched the primaries and you saw how much the parties embraced this tough rhetoric. romney is paying a price for that. >> i could add to that list. i do not need to, but there are a number of issues that labor has been very quiet about. particularly some of these treaties, labor agreements with other nations. there are a number of things you could put on the list, but i
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digress on that point. you mentioned nevada and colorado. you have been the l.a. bureau chief for a few years now. welcome to california and what it will feel like on election night when you feel like an afterthought because the rest of the country is important and the west does not seem to matter to most of the networks. they start calling elections and giving us poll results. you get the feeling that the rest of us have. >> i love california. tavis: you know what it feels like. >> networks calling in. when you are in new york, the campaign does not exist in california or new york unless you have a lot of money. tavis: you cover this every day for the times. this year might be different. if this race is as tight as we said earlier, it could be that nevada, colorado, we end up
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being decisive. tell me more. >> we have been talking about this in arizona, nevada -- not arizona, nevada, colorado, once upon a time new mexico, but no more. they are becoming swing states, really contested. this coming week, both the president and romney are going to nevada. only six electoral votes, but it has become a really contested state. the west is what the midwest used to be, to some extent. it is a very divided part of the country. the west used to be not so much. there was a point in this campaign were the obama people were putting people in arizona and testing whether they could put arizona in play. they decided in the end that
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they could not or it was not worth the investment. there are people who argue, which is not wacky to say, that at some point texas will become a democratic state. >> with regard to nevada and colorado, what is happening that is putting them in play? >> is all demographic. a big part of it is the latino vote. states are going to be more and more democratic. it is a slow move. it has gone from republican to in play. they are heading democratic. tavis: does romney have a shot at getting a significant portion of the latino vote? >> bush 43 got 45% in the exit polls.
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i think mccain got 35%. i think that is probably romney's ceiling. ideally, he needs to get more. how much does romney cut into obama's support? , to do latino voters think about immigration being a key issue -- how much do latino voters think about immigration being a key issue? there was a poll that showed among the general population, and i will be off by a little bit, 89% were certain they would vote. among latino voters, it was a 10-point drop off. that is a big deal. let's add florida to that list, too. iowa, at one point you have got at north carolina. he is thinking, we have got to pump that turnout.
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tavis: i agree with you. when a race is this close, turnout becomes key. in that regard, mr. romney has momentum over the last weeks. mr. obama came back in the second debate and made it an interesting contest. there will be a lot of talk in the coming days about what happened tonight. my sense is tonight will have been the least-watched debate. >> i agree. it is foreign policy. tavis: monday night football. i raise that because i want to come to this point about turnout. mr. romney has been gaining steam, no doubt about it. both of these guys have, over the course of this campaign, have admitted enthusiasm gaps. mr. romney has and enthusiasm
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gap on his right flank and mr. obama has an enthusiasm that on his left flank. talk about how they are closing those gaps? >> if obama loses, we will go back to the first debate again and again. it was devastating for a number are reasons. not only for his flat performance and because romney made himself acceptable to voters, but he stimulated republican base voters who had not been before. people love that he went after him that way. you could see an explosion in the level of energy. that was a big deal. enthusiasm among republican voters, including voters on the right, who are always suspicious of his positions on abortion, gay rights, gun control, they are really enthusiastic. at the same time, before he came into this election, there was
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not much enthusiasm for the president after the first debate. people were saying, why am i giving you money? why am i working so hard for you if you are going to perform like that? i believe that he went a decent way in recovering with the second debate. i think a lot of his ads we are not seen because we do not live in swing states are real adds that ends with a line saying tommy -- sang, "mitt romney, he is not one of us." they are alarmed with the prospect of president obama and they're trying to get the word out there. tavis: it has long been the case that he who wins ohio when it all. do you think that applies this
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time around? >> i do think that is true. the rules of politics are always proven wrong. learn from the past but do not stop looking to the future. do i think that romney has to win -- romney pretty much have to win ohio to win the race. unless there is a weird explosion that i cannot imagine, he has to. i think the president can win without winning ohio, but it is hard. tavis: a final question about george mcgovern passing. it raises the obvious conversation about liberalism then reverses liberalism now -- then versus now. >> it is hard to imagine george mcgovern thriving in a political atmosphere like this. he identified with too many issues that were politically
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problematic. i read in the new york times the obituary of him. he did a pre-obituary interview, which we tend to do. he talked a lot about this. it is worth going back and looking at it. he was as proud of his positions and really believed in them. i was refreshed by it. he was very down-to-earth. there was no one out there who is anywhere like him. no one is calling themselves a liberal anymore. tavis: i am out of time but i want you to go to our web site because i want ask him about prop. 32. this is the most-watched ballot measure in the entire country. if this thing passes in california, it will have a huge impact on labor unions across the country.
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go on line to watch the answer to that question. that is it for tonight. until next time, thanks for watching. until -- as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. joining next time for a conversation with award-winning novelist t.c. boyle. that is next time. we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out.
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs. >> be more. pbs.
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Tavis Smiley
PBS October 23, 2012 2:30pm-3:00pm PDT

News/Business. Luciana Souza. (2012) Adam Nagourney, The New York Times; singer Luciana Souza. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY New York 6, Nevada 6, California 5, Colorado 4, Arizona 4, Us 4, Adam Nagourney 3, Obama 3, Mr. Romney 3, Iowa 3, George Mcgovern 3, L.a. 3, U.s. 2, Pbs 2, Libya 2, Washington 2, Tavis Smiley 2, Los Angeles 1, America 1, New Hampshire 1
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on 10/23/2012